July 5

July 6th, 2007

I was looking forward to sleeping in this morning. I knew we wouldn’t be catching the Chi-Cheemaun ferry until 11:30, so I planned to sleep until about 9 or 10. You can imagine my surprise when I was jolted out of a deep sleep by my Dad yelling “Get up! We gotta go!” I was in a whirlwind of emotions. I was tired, confused and angry. He had just spoke to the Ferry officials and they were making a special exception to get us on the 11:30 ferry, but we had to get there by 9 am in order to ensure a spot for us on the boat. Good thing our campsite was only 3 km from the docks.


I didn’t bother taping my ankles since I had such a short distance to blade. I even skipped breakfast since I knew we’d be sitting at the pier for a couple of hours. And then we received another surprise. Too many surprises this early in the morning can’t be good for the heart. The Ferry Official we had been talking to, Ian, had waived the entire fee for the crossing. Now we can justify eating at a restaurant for breakfast! The dockside restaurant we ate at was delicious and all the servers even knew who I was. Apparently they had either heard me on the radio or been told by the restaurant owner.


Once on board, we had a couple hours to sit and relax. There’s wasn’t much to look at since a thick fog was blanketing the water. I was starting to get a bit bored and even resorted to snapping photos of my own feet to amuse myself. Then I was brought out of my daze by an announcement over the loud speaker. “Would Rich Ralph please report to the cafeteria.” What was this all about? My parents were both beside me, so I knew they hadn’t made the announcement. When I arrived in the cafeteria, I came face-to-face with Captain Kerry Adams. He was the captain of the ferry and had heard about me. He took me aside to chat for a bit before making another announcement over the loud speaker for anyone wishing to donate to come see me. Within seconds, people were literally lining up to meet me! It was like a receiving line at a wedding. Except everyone was handing me cash! Unbelievably, I collected nearly $300 in a very short period. After the flurry of people died down, Captain Adams threw me another curve ball. “How would you like to steer the ship?” he asked. That’s like asking my dad if he’d like a bowl of ice cream! There was no question. So my parents and I followed Kerry up to the Bridge where we met the rest of the crew. I had the rare opportunity to see how the ferry is operated and even stand behind the wheel for a few minutes. As excited as I was, I know that this will forever be my Dad’s highlight of the trip. He was as giddy as a school girl the entire time we were on board the Chi-Cheemaun.


The fog was starting to lift as we pulled into the harbour on Manitoulin Island. It was after 1:00, so we decided to have lunch in a little restaurant immediately as we got off the boat. It doesn’t get much better than some fresh fish and chips at a dockside restaurant on a warm summer afternoon. I wasn’t in much of a hurry because Espanlola was just over 100 km away and I didn’t have to be there until later tomorrow. So any distance I covered today would be bonus. When I finally started skating, the wind was pushing me along the highway at blistering rates. In no time, I was 30 km down the road in Manitowaning. We stopped briefly for a break at the information center on the edge of town. The women in the center were so enthusiastic about me that they instantly made a phone call and had me on the air with the only Island radio station, 100.7 fm. Big Mike was the DJ and gave me a fantastic interview.


The next 25 km was the polar opposite of what I had just bladed through. The wind was shifting and hitting me hard in the chest. It was a long, non-enjoyable stretch to Sheguiandah, but I finished strong and positive. Just before reaching my destination, an ambulance passed me in the opposite direction and flashed his lights while giving me a big thumbs up. I love getting encouragement from officials with flashing lights! And to make it even better, a police officer passed me shortly after and did the exact same thing.


I was only minutes away from the campground where we were planning to stay at for the night when another police pulled up beside me with lights flashing and stopped directly in front of me. At first I thought maybe he was going to offer an escort the rest of the way, but that didn’t seem right. We weren’t near any major towns. I rolled up to his window and jokingly said “Am I being arrested?” He must not have liked the comment because he pulled his gun on me and I was face down with a boot on the back of my neck in less than 2 seconds. Actually, that never happened. He stuck his arm out the window and shook my hand. This was the same cop that had just passed me in the opposite direction. He had turned around because he had heard me on the radio and wanted to make a donation. Thanks, Constable Mack. I hope I meet more officers like you.


I finally rolled to my finish point at Green Acres Campground in Sheguiandah. This town is advertised to be 9500 years old! Incredible. Green Acres was a beautiful campground right on the water and they donated a lakeside site for us for the night. This was definitely one of the nicest campsites I’ve been to. We could walk out of the RV door and directly onto a soft, sandy beach. And to top it all off, the owners also bought us dinner at their restaurant. Green Acres is the place to be!


This is such a beautiful area of Canada that is seemingly undiscovered by the general population. I’ve been to the typical cottage country where everyone in the GTA fights traffic to get to. But this part of Ontario puts it all to shame. Tomorrow I’ll be in Espanola. Let the Hills of Northern Ontario begin.



Posted in Daily Journal | 1 Comment »


One Response to “July 5”

  1. Diane O'Reilly Says:

    Third time should be lucky….having problems with my fingers this morning and just can’t seem to leave a message here!

    Happy to hear you had such an amazing and profitable time on the Chi-Cheemaun. On the 2nd I wrote to 100.7fm to notify them of your arrival on the island………Good thing the locals made the call. Great to see that donations-in-kind are being made as well as the cash donations. Good luck with the hills. Still trying to scan and resize the photos to send to you. I’ll keep in touch. D.

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